Israel completes Gaza strip, West Bank pull-outs

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The West Bank

Israel has completed its pull-out from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements.

It had been feared that the protesters in the two West Bank towns, Sanur and Homesh, would put up strong resistance but in the end only made token protests, pelting soldiers with fruit, flour, and paint and burning Israeli flags. The residents of the two other towns went peacefully.

In the synagogues of the settlements Israeli troops had to cut through barricades of iron bars and barbed wire before carrying out protesters, but they did not resist. Around 40 settlers made a last stand on the roof of an old fort before giving themselves up to riot police after being sprayed with water cannons.

The Israeli Chief of Staff said, "There has been less violence than we thought. One of the reasons was because rabbis worked to calm tensions."

Four police officers received minor injuries.

Local Palestinians looked on as the protesters were cleared, and told reporters that life would be easier for them now. Previously, Israeli settlers had stopped Palestinian farmers from travelling, and had even stopped some of them visiting a village cemetery.

Israelis will retain responsibility for security in the West Bank settlements, although in the Gaza strip that role has now been handed over to Palestinians.

In the Gaza strip, Israeli forces have already demolished six of the settlements left behind by the evacuation of 8,500 Israeli settlers to make way for new Palestinian construction.

In the West Bank, there remain some 120 Jewish settlements housing more than 230,000.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has seen his poll ratings raise despite the angry scenes. Hamas, a radical Palestinian group, has attempted to present the pull-out as a surrender by Israel. "We believe that this unilateral withdrawal is a complete failure for the Israeli enemy, that it deserves no concession from our side whatsoever," said a spokesman.

US President George Bush said the pull-out has "changed the dynamics on the ground and has provided hope for the Palestinian people."


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